Momentum Is Real

from my soon-to-be-published book, Just One Step: Walking Backwards to the Present on the Camino Trail

I’ve often thought about the importance of momentum, but it was only on the Camino that I really came to understand it – how to create it, and the various impacts and gifts that momentum delivers. Whether you’re embarking on a Camino or a different journey, any pursuit of an objective requires momentum to help you achieve your desired outcomes.

Let’s first look at some of these vital outcomes that momentum delivers, which I experienced the truth of on the Camino. One of the biggest gifts of momentum is that it makes your journey easier and acts as a lubricant on any pursuit. Lao Tzu is widely quoted as follows: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” This is certainly a practical truth, and it was an important truth for me on the Camino, but the key is that the single step must be followed by another step, and another step, and another step. And once you create some rhythm of steps, you’ve achieved the amazing power of momentum.

Imagine what my Camino journey would have been like if I took one step, paused, took another step, paused, took another step, etc. Not only would my journey have taken much longer, but I may not have ever completed any part of it. When I’m only taking one step at a time and not building any momentum, then every step requires more work and effort. This is why momentum not only makes the journey easier, but acts like a lubricant taking us more swiftly and predictably towards our outcomes.

The next gift of momentum is the role it plays to help you overcome the natural occurrences of fatigue and discouragement. When I’m limited to single steps without momentum, it’s easier for discouragement and setbacks to cause me to doubt, delay or even fail to start. Momentum doesn’t prevent exhaustion, frustration and discouragement, but it’s a powerful tool in overcoming them.

Similarly, momentum is vital when you face the inevitable obstacles and challenges along the way, whatever they may be. Momentum is the thing that keeps us moving over, around and sometimes through our obstacles and challenges. I’ve always been drawn to the metaphor of the stream and the stone, including this quote from H. Jackson Brown, Jr.: “In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins – not through strength but by perseverance.” While I still find this perspective helpful, it struck me that it’s only focused on the ultimate outcome – that the stream will eventually wear down and wash away the rock. However, what happens when the stream initially confronts the rock? The stream doesn’t stop, and it certainly doesn’t think about ways past the rock – it just keeps moving and it finds a way around the rock. The same is true for momentum in your life. When you’re able to create momentum, it helps sustain itself and you on your journey, which helps keep you moving despite any obstacles.

Not only does momentum help you navigate past or through obstacles, it helps to smooth out the inevitable bumps and rough spots. If you’re very slowly making your way as you pursue some objective, you’ll feel and perhaps be slowed by the bumps and rough spots. However, when you’re able to achieve some level of momentum, the bumps are just bumps and the momentum will carry you over them with less effort and minimal delay. In short, momentum is like a rubber raft that carries you and speeds you on your journey.

Thus, momentum is essential and it’s always and only achieved in one way – not by big action or giant steps, but by small actions and little steps taken continually towards your desired outcomes. Even better, you don’t have to plan for or design momentum – it’s a natural outcome and occurrence of taking one step followed by another and another, all while you continue to just keep going.

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